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Resistance is futile: Cal fails to keep up with Kansas State

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JUSTIN WANG | STAFF

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Staff

NOVEMBER 11, 2022

Coming off a tough loss to UC Davis, Cal was anxious to redeem itself. Going up against an athletic and fast-paced Kansas State Wildcats team, the Bears had a tall task ahead of them. Despite the first few minutes looking relatively promising, the blue and gold fell apart in the middle of the first half. Even with a second half surge, the hole they had dug themselves was too large to recover from, and the Bears eventually fell 63 to 54.

It was evident following the loss to UC Davis that something needed to change — beyond simply playing better. Head coach Mark Fox made an adjustment before the starting buzzer even sounded: Tipoff against K State saw freshman Grant Newell slotting into the starting lineup for sophomore Sam Alajiki.

Despite the change, Cal came out of the gate flat; it started 0-5 on jump shots, and Kansas State was able to get by its perimeter defense into the paint with ease. Even with this subpar start, Cal was able to stay close for the first few minutes of the game, thanks to a couple of back-to-back threes. After eight minutes of play, the score was knotted at 13, and the fans were rowdily anticipating a competitive matchup.

However, it couldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows. A Kansas State three-pointer followed by a technical on coach Fox at the 12-minute mark seemed to be the blue and gold’s breaking point. The Wildcats pounced on the Bears’ unease and lack of control, putting on a full-court press and forcing a turnover. 

The next eight and a half minutes were excruciating for the crowd as they watched the Kansas State lead expand due to an assortment of Cal turnovers, poor shot selection at the end of the shot clock and an overall inability from the blue and gold to execute any offense. Cal went about eight minutes without scoring a single point and watched the tied score turn into a 15 point deficit.

Cal’s offense fell victim to multiple defensive adjustments by Kansas State, succumbing to the havoc created by the Wildcats’ attacking defense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears simply could not secure any rebounds to finish the play. Especially considering that rebounding was a point of emphasis for the Bears, it was extra mental damage every time Kansas State secured an offensive rebound. 

Cal went into halftime down 36-21, ending the half with a few layups but still down a large deficit. However, after going down 20 to start the second half, the Bears locked in and rallied. 

“We didn’t respond too well (to Kansas State’s defense) in the first half,” said coach Fox. “But once we found our competitive fight, we were able to play pretty solid.”

The Bears sparked a huge 13-0 run in four minutes, cutting the Wildcat lead to just seven points. The crowd came back to life and was deafening in its support. The Bears paired stout defense with timely shotmaking, finding themselves only down four with eight minutes remaining in the ball game.

The Bears got as close as a single point with five minutes remaining when Kansas State finally responded, going on a mini 8-0 run to re-establish their lead. A back-and-forth ensued between the two teams down the stretch. However, efficient offense from the Wildcats and missed free throws by the Bears saw the lead return to double digits with just a minute left

The blue and gold ended up losing 63 to 54, but their second half performance was crucial for their outlook on the season, showing they were able to put it together and be a rock-solid team. The Bears head to La Jolla to face UC San Diego next Tuesday, where they will look to emulate the second-half explosion for the entire 40 minutes.

Contact Kyle Ngo at 

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NOVEMBER 11, 2022